June 27, 2008

Burleson Students Interview Astronaut

By Martha Deller, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Jun. 27--BURLESON -- Makayla Graham had always wondered what astronauts eat in space.

She got her answer Thursday during a live downlink with Greg Chamitoff, flight engineer of Expedition 17 at the international space station.

As the hand-picked students watched from the Burleson High School auditorium, Chamitoff pulled out bags of trail mix, spinach, yogurt, granola bars and other foods that he pronounced "really good."

"It was really funny how he pulled all the food out and it was floating away," said Makayla, a fourth-grader at Frazier Elementary School.

Ten students questioned Chamitoff during the 20-minute downlink that was viewed via videoconference by students from Hong Kong to Mexico. After the downlink ended, NASA education specialist Jennifer Bersera answered leftover questions that ranged from scientific breakthroughs to brushing your teeth in space.

Candace Rich, an incoming high school junior, said it was exciting to interview Chamitoff, one of the U.S. astronauts who is exploring space with astronauts from Russia and other countries.

"In the past, they were always involved in a race to be better or first," she said. "Now they're working together. He'll go down in history, and not many other people can say they asked him questions."

How was the Burleson school district chosen to participate in this downlink from space?

The district applied to NASA's Teaching in Space program. Burleson was the only Texas district chosen this year and only one of five in the United States. The Burleson district, which has participated in various space-related projects including Space Day and Signatures in Space, "stood out," Bersera said.

How were students chosen to question Chamitoff?

Most of the student interviewers attended Mission BISD: All Systems Go, the district's first summer science camp for 73 third- through fifth-graders. Other students were selected from essays that suggested questions and why they wanted to participate.

Did Chamitoff see the questions before the downlink?

The questions were edited by Burleson teachers and NASA officials to simplify them and avoid duplication. Most students asked their own questions but some were assigned other questions. Chamitoff received the questions in advance so he could have space food, robots and other items nearby for demonstrations.

Why does NASA promote this type of program?

To inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. To allow the public to share the experience of exploration and discovery. In addition to the public school programs, NASA provides grants for college students.

View the downlink The Burleson downlink will be replayed on NASA Television and streamed on the NASA Web site at www.nasa.gov/ntv. Check the schedule for North Texas Space Station sightings at www.jsc.nasa.gov/sightings.

To find out more about NASA education programs, go to www.nasa.gov/education.


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